Welcome back, football fans.
As far as Week Ones go, that was a doozy. How could one possibly have expected Jared Goff to hang 46 on an NFL defens—oh, my bad. Against the Colts defense? Or for Sam Bradford to throw the ball beyond the sticks not once, not twice, but three times during an MVP-caliber performance? Or for the Giants to look so feeble in their first game of—oh, wait. That one we actually saw coming.
You’d have a tough time convincing me the Eagles didn’t look like the top dog in the NFC East after one outing. The departure of offensive coordinator Sean McVay left a gaping hole in Washington’s game; issues along New York’s offensive line and linebacking corps prove an enduring Achilles heel; Dallas’s well-oiled machine appeared, well, rusty. Philadelphia themselves endured a high-variance game, along with a few bad breaks and injuries—but the highs were as dangerous as they come.
Week 2 should certainly prove a stiffer challenge—and, as such, a better litmus test for the fledgling Eagles. Fortunately for you, I can share the results of that litmus test a few days early. Only read on if you’re cool with the spoilers.
#1) A montage of really old pictures
Okay, this one is a gimme—I’m just getting warm. This is the first Pederson v. Reid bout since the son left the father for greener pastures in the homeland of Philadelphia, where Pederson at one time played, and at another time coached, for Andy Reid.
As most Philly fans know, from broadcasts past that saw Reid squaring off against Holmgren, Gruden, or one of their disciples, any time two branches of the same coaching tree do battle, old pictures must be involved. Preferably three to five. If there’s an official coaching staff photo—like, the one with the matching polos all lined up in the bleachers—they’ll have to do a little highlight effect as well.
Whoop, there it is. Look at that ‘stache on Young Andy, man. Illustrious.
#2) Who is this Alex Smith?
It’s no lie: that Thursday Night Alex was one of the best we’ve seen. What we expected, we saw: mastery at the line of scrimmage pre-snap, the ability to extended the play with his legs, and an industrious, risk-free distribution of the football. But Smith’s willingness to push the football down the field and attack tight windows with placement and velocity? That’s the anti-Alex. That’s the skill set that made some consider calling for Patrick Mahomes to take over the helm this season. And as long as Smith keeps playing that brand of football, the rookie poses no threat to him at all.
And as such, we’ll see the regular Alex, check-down extraordinaire. Smith’s always been that quarterback who’s juuust not good enough to keep his starting spot on lockdown, so history tells us he must regress. The Chiefs have a good enough receiving corps, good enough stable of backs, solid offensive line, an excellent defense, and a mid-tier incumbent QB with the first-round heir waiting in the wings. The breeding ground for an unnecessary, drawn-out, debilitating QB controversy is too good to pass up, for the vengeful football gods. It’s just a matter of when.
#3) Two more Brandon Graham sacks
This is another example of the perfect storm. After, oh, everybody and their mother spent the offseason insisting that Brandon Graham was a top-tier pass rusher despite his low sack numbers, Graham popped off two sacks against Washington’s premiere OT duo.
Now, obscenely early and disproportionate reactions to offseason takes are the hallmark of Weeks 1-4. If there’s the slightest hint that September stats validate June predictions, every analyst and their mother will fly to the interwebs to remind the mostly-imaginary naysayers just how right they are.
And, having seen how an unpressured Smith carved up the New England secondary, Schwartz and Co. will make it quite the priority to get Philly defenders in the backfield. The best Eagle to answer that call? Brandon Graham.
Game plan; skill set; the opportunity for analysts to stroke their own egos? Like I said: perfect storm.
#4a) All of the timeouts left on the board when the first half ends
After Doug spent a time out with 2:02 left on the clock against Washington, I began to break into a cold sweat. Just the words “clock management” make my left eye start twitching. One time, someone just said “2004-2005 Super Bowl,” and it took my buddies 20 minutes to get me out of the bathroom, back home, and under the covers with a bowl of warm soup.
When I was seven years old, I could manage a two-minute drill better than Andy—and it seems the Pederson apple falls not far from the Reid tree. As such, expect the Eagles to be stopped short on 3rd down with about 1:50 left, and Reid to holster all of his timeouts for a Chiefs drive that ends up misusing the sidelines, going no-huddle, and pulling a 46-yd field goal wide left.
Of course, there’s two sides of clock mismanagement.
#4b) All timeouts off the clock by 5:00 left in the second
There is no middle ground here. It’s all or nothing when it comes to bungling the two-minute drill and dashing Super Bowl dreams.
#5) Twelve midget streakers
Expect KC to come out swinging in their first home game of the season, off of a long week and a victory over the Super Bowl defenders. Philly should also come out hot, however, given the recent surge of support behind Pederson as he returns to Kansas City. This should come down to momentum swings, and momentum swings often grow from mistakes: generating an early turnover or ripping off a big special teams play will help the Eagles take the wind out of Arrowhead’s sails.
Even if the Eagles can jump to an early lead, I don’t think they have the consistent offense (COUGH RUN GAME COUGH) to hold it in enemy territory—this KC offense is too prone to big plays as well. Give me KC 28-21 in a game with a couple of fourth-down attempts and 50+ yard plays. I like Brandon Graham for his 2 sacks (one forced fumble), Nelson Agholor for 80 yards, and Wendell Smallwood for more than four rushing attempts. Please.